An NME Exclusive Interview with a Very Private Individual, James Taylor, Who Appears at the Palladium This Sunday

by Allan McDougall
New Musical Express
October 24, 1970

James Taylor is a tall, lanky, loping, likeable kind of fellow. But nevertheless, a very private individual. Not the kind of guy you can do a regular kind of interview with.

Not that he's offensively off-putting or nasty. Quite the opposite. It's just that he confesses to have nothing to say when it comes to telling people about himself.

I met him for the first time on Sunday morning [October 18], when he flew into London from Vancouver with his good friend Joni Mitchell, with whom he'd just done a concert, and his manager, Peter Asher, . . . [w]earing an old pair of baggy, faded blue jeans and a shawl-cum-cardigan thing. . . .

James was pretty tired, and explained: "I've been doing so much travelling recently. Like, last night we were in Vancouver, which is on the West Coast, and before that I was at home in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, which is in the East. Before that I was shooting the movie ('Two Lane Blacktop,' in which James plays the driver of a cross-country dragster) and that took us all over the Midwest---Macon, Georgia; Little Rock, Arkansas; Boswell, Oklahoma, and everywhere like that.

"The movie took about two months and involved working around 13 hours a day, at least."

All of which was enough to convince me that he sure was tired, so I let him be for Sunday, and joined up with him again on Monday at the BBC-TV Centre, where he was shooting an "In Concert" programme for Stanley Dorfmann on BBC-2.

[next 5 paragraphs omitted]

What really makes James Taylor happy?

"Oh, I like working on my house in Martha's Vineyard. I like being away from cities altogether, although Boston is okay, and so is San Francisco, I guess. I was born in Boston, but we all moved to [North] Carolina when I was three and I lived there until I was 14, when I went to school in New York."

"And I like singing and playing, although sometimes that runs out. I have to play in cities, and in colleges in cities, but that's where the people are, so . . ."

Then James went into the TV studio to sing James Taylor, except that he commenced his concert with his own version of: "Messrs. Lennon & McCartney's 'With A Little Help From My Good [sic] Friends," which I always open with."

[next 3 paragraphs omitted]

Actually, Taylor opens up more about his music when he has a guitar or a piano under his fingers. He told us that "Sweet Baby James" is a lullaby for his older brother's son, and J. T.'s nephew, James.

And "Steamroller" was written when he was with a New York group, the Flying Machine, in 1966, and all the suburban kids in other groups were trying to be real bluesy with the guitars and amps their parents bought them.

Those kids were writing the heaviest lyric they could think of---like "I'm The Queen Mary, Baby" or "I'm A Ton Of Bricks"---so he had to send that scene up with this song in which he is a Steamroller and a Cement-Mixer and a Napalm Bomb.

[next paragraph omitted]

After the show it was all down to dinner on the Warner Brothers, James' record label, and James told me that sometime he'd like to go up to Scotland.

"My great-great-great grandparents come from Marykirk, which is in County Moray. Up near Aberdeen, I guess. I'd really like to get up there for a time and see where it all began."

In the meantime, James Taylor is looking forward to playing a concert in London on Sunday [October 25] at the Palladium.

[Transcriber note (Kevin Christopher): the second part of the sentence in paragraph 3 is added from a later omitted paragraph, since I believe Joni knitted the "cardigan" sweater James is wearing in the photo and may have been singing about it a few months later in All I Want ("I want to knit you a sweater/Want to write you a love letter"). See: "Sweaters, Snakes, And Joni Mitchell: James Taylor Remembers 1970," by Paul Sexton, December 28, 2020: and "'I was a bad influence on the Beatles:' James Taylor on Lennon, love and recovery," by Jenny Stevens (interview), February 17, 2020]

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